Sunday, January 27, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: When Jesus Works A Church

A week after Chuck's Memorial Service, I received a call from my 90-year old Dad in Dallas.  I could tell he had something heavy on his mind and it didn't take him long to share his heart with me.

But before I tell you what he said, I must give you the back-story.  My two siblings and I were raised in a strict, conservative religious home.  Dad had been raised in this same denomination and, although considered a Christian faith, was very much a "works-based" movement.  Because of the rigorous rules this church followed, my parents chose to sell their wedding rings early on in their marriage to help build a church school so us three kids would never have to attend public school.   Their sacrifice was great...and their hearts were pure.  My Dad remains a member there today.  

Now, onto the call from Dad.  He told me how utterly impressed he was at how our church had treated the extended family during Chuck's service.  He had never been to a church that served the needs of a grieving family like First United Methodist Church in Mt. Vernon did that day, and that there had been a consistent theme of compassion throughout the entire experience; from the meaningful and upbeat service to the amazing luncheon afterward.  

My father choked up as he spoke these beautiful words to me, and I could tell he had given a great deal of thought to this.  

He then said something I never thought I'd hear my father say.  "I want you to move my monthly tithe currently being sent to my home YOUR church, Liz."  I thought I misunderstood what he had said, so I had him repeat it.  "I want you, Liz, to change my tithe to your church....because your church deserves my money."  I won't lie; I tried to talk him out of it.  I suggested he might make one payment to our church and then continue tithing to his own church, but he wouldn't have it.  He said, " what I ask, please."  So I did.  My Dad is now tithing to our church....not his own....because we showed him what a church looks like when they are the hands and feet of Jesus.  

Our church showed Dad what Grace, out of Love, truly looks like. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Fitting The Pieces Together

A few years back while cleaning out a closet, I found a puzzle box with no lid.  It looked to have at least 500 pieces and there was no way to tell what this puzzle picture was by the tiny pieces laying-in-wait in the box.  As I tried to decide whether to keep or throw it out, the rebel side of me said, "I bet you can't put it together without the box lid picture.  I-Double-Dog-Dare-You!",

So I took that bet from the rebel side of my brain.  I lay the pieces out on the dining room table, separated the colors and the flat sides from each other.  I managed, after a while, to get the frame of the puzzle completed.  But now came the hard part.  The guts.  I worked for hours trying to locate just one piece to fit into the outer frame of the puzzle.  I was about to give up when WHAM....a piece fit!  I stepped back...looked at the puzzle...and in true God form, felt Him saying, "This, Liz, is your life."  

And right there in the dining room...I saw my life in that puzzle.  I saw where, as hard as I might try, I can't see the whole picture of my life.  I can only see the pieces of my past completed and snapped together.  Only God sees the cover of the puzzle box...and only God knows how the pieces fit together to form a picture of your life.  He is the only one who knows the next piece that must be placed in the puzzle in order for the next piece to fit and eventually, the picture of our lives is complete.  He watches patiently as we tell Him to stand back and let us try to force-fit a piece that was never meant to fit there.  And He struggles to understand why we don't let Him help when He is the only One who has the benefit of seeing the whole picture. 

When the decisions, choices, and difficulties of this life threaten to overwhelm you, think back on this box of puzzle pieces and remember how impossible it is for us to know where the pieces of our life go without God's help.  And never forget; He's the only One who knows every curve and every angle of your life.  Let Him put the pieces together.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: What Grieving People Wish You Knew

 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,  
and death shall be no more,  
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore”  

A few weeks back, I was talking with a contractor about a simple repair on the house when suddenly, I was blinking back tears.  It caught me so off guard; one minute I'm talking about a gutter-guard and the next, fighting off this enormous wave of grief where words couldn't even leave my mouth.  I found myself barely able to utter an apology to the poor gutter-guy while excusing myself to grab a tissue.    

Such has been my life these past 8 weeks.  Grief shows up at the most inopportune time I've discovered. 

In these two months since my husband passed away, I have discovered much about Grief....and about myself.   I have discovered that the feel of someone's arms wrapped tightly around me is a form of medicine.  It has healing powers.  No words need to be said...just skin touching skin are the words.  It's a balm to my soul.  

I have discovered that, although it brings tears (happy tears) and can be emotional, I NEED to hear people talk about Chuck.  His name brings joy to me and he need not be the elephant in the room where his name is avoided.  I need to know that if you knew him, you remember him.  I missed this the most about our Christmas gatherings this year.  He went from the "running-over-small-children-and-doorways-with-his-wheelchair" elephant in the room, to the actual "avoid-saying-his name-for-fear-of-tears" elephant in the room.  We need to say our loved ones name....we need to remember them....we need to laugh and, yes, cry over our memories of them.    

I have discovered that although I miss him more than words, I wouldn't want God to bring him back to this earth, even if He allowed me the choice.  I love him far too much for that.  This world wasn't ever his home; it was merely a road leading him to Home.  He arrived safely and why would I ever want him to leave the comfort of his eternal Home to travel this often difficult road ever again?  

What this grieving widow needs you to know is there isn't a second out of each day she doesn't think of her husband...and smile.  And she longs to see you smile along with her.  Not the pity-look...but the "what-a-crazy-cool-guy-he-was" kind of look.  It soothes her soul.  And don't let her tears scare you..they are healing tears.  With each tear that falls, she is one step closer to repairing her broken heart. 

She needs you to know she doesn't grieve her husband...she grieves her loss...and she will be fine with time.  Your prayers will see to that...and she is eternally grateful to you that the Throne Room floor of God is covered in prayers with her name on them.   

"Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come." Tagore